Wednesday, 27 April 2016

The Duelist #3-4 (Fallen Empires)

This time I cover the last two issues of The Duelist I had skipped on account of not having a copy of them before. There isn't a whole lot of stuff in here so it will be a short review, but don't worry, I'll be back to the Weatherlight-era books after this!

Once more I must thank Mike Linnemann for allowing me a look at these old issues!

Issue three has the official Wizards coverage of the Fallen Empires story. It's a one paragraph explanation of the situation in Sarpadia, with its various empires and rebellions, followed up with three pages of letters supposedly written during that time. The first letter is from a bunch of besieged dwarves asking the Havenwood elves for help. The elves decline because they are to busy with the Thallid rebellion but promising to send the letter on to the Icatians. The Icatian say they can't help either but will pass the request on to the Ebon Hand.The Ebon Hand do promising help, but the final letter from the Dwarves reveals that the mercenaries they send have joined the attacking orcs. Oh, and there is a back and forth between Vodalia and Icatia in there as well, with the Vodalians asking for medicine and Icatia saying they don't even have enough for themselves.

It's a fun enough little document, though there isn't a whole lot of substance to it. You really need all the flavor text from the actual expansion to get the whole story. Or the novel/comics, but those wouldn't be released until more than a year after this,  This is more of a taster, something to set the mood. Which fits perfectly with the ideas of the East Coast Playtesters about how a player opening packs would be like an archaeologist or historian slowly piecing everything together. For us, looking back twenty years later, it's not that great a story, but taken in conjunction with all the later released sources it is actually quite nice.

Continuitywise it fits very well. The dwarves are besieged in an abandoned mine after the fall of Gurn Keep, which we saw/will see in And Peace Shall Sleep. Thus the timeline placement of these letters are quite easy. Also noteworthy is that the letters from the Icatians are signed by the Prime Minster Lady Margaret Elsworth and mention King Henry Joseph. These two were mentioned in both Ashes of the Sun and And Peace Shall Sleep. Now who says pre-revisionist continuity was a mess?

The Fallen Empires article is just headed as "Fallen Empires". The MTGSalvation wiki turns it into "A History of the Fallen Empires", assuming the naming of the Arabian Nights and Antiquities articles continued here. Odd, but just a small mistake. However, the wiki really goes off the rails with the second story in these issues : Mezlok's Challenge. Not only do they call it Mezzlock's Challenge, with an extra Z and C, they also say it's a two-parter, with the second half in issue four. Well, I've gone through issue four several times now, and it contains no mention of Mezlok, nor of Mezzlock!

Which is odd, since the four page comic in issue three clearly promises a follow up. It has this planeswalker called Mezlok defeating a blue guy and taking that blue guy's position as champion for a... city? nation? village? dunno. He's the champion of Gordahn, which is some sort of collection of blue guys. Mezlok will now be their champion in... eh... "the contest". No further explanation is given. Then the story cuts to some ugly dudes with no noses (yet with four nostrils) who talk to a big scary face... and then the story suddenly ends. Clearly there was more on the way, but it never materialized, at least not in any future issued of The Duelist, no matter what the wiki says!

I can't say I blame Wizards for discontinuing this story. Its plot, as far as there is any, is pretty dull and Mark Poole's art is just not very good. He does great art now, but in the early days of Magic he was always a bit hit or miss, and this is a definite miss. Not only is it not very pretty, it is very, very static, which is a big crime for sequential art.

Really, the only redeeming quality of this thing is the fact that Poole drew in the bird-tiger thing from Natural Selection as Mezlok's sidekick. Clearly this means that horrible card (which must infuriate MaRo with its color pie breaking and its name that should've been saved for a much better card) is now a contender for From the Vault: Lore, right?

Timelinewise there is nothing to suggest when this is supposed to take place. I'm going to plop it in with the rest of the original "present day" stuff at ~4000-4200 AR, with a big qualifier next to it. Putting it there means I can imagine a big crossover story featuring all these ye olde planeswalkers who seemingly had nothing better to do than duel with each other. Thomil, Worzil, Mezlok, Tempe, those two dudes from the "Duel for Dominia" story... might as well throw Zakk and Kazz in there. I like to imagine they all hang out in one little hub of the Multiverse where for some reason planeswalkers keep running into one another.

That's it for today! I hope you all enjoyed this blast from the past. Next time we'll be looking at a blast from a slightly more recent past when we return to our regularly scheduled Weatherlight Saga.

1 comment:

  1. An extremely minor thing to bring up (especially on such an old article) but I'm fond of the fact that issue three made up an entire plane in Antausia, and painted a (fairly) vivid picture of it with just two pages of exposition.
    Plus, it's interestingly an early version of Planechase!

    I find it funny how early on in Magic pretty much every plane was portrayed as miserably ruined by mages/planeswalkers (Maybe Shandalar is partially an exception?), they started deconstructing the flavour of what gameplay would mean in-universe Before actually setting up the 'cool power fantasy' part.